SWTOR will be launching late December, and I thought it might be fun to make some predictions on their future sales figures.
So, Battlefield 3 pre-orders are over 1.5 million (Sept 20, 2011) and over 1.25 million (Sept 7, 2011). And, EA has stated that "SWTOR far exceed BF3's pre-order sales." (July 26, 2011) On August 29, BF3 pre-orders were over 800,000 and SWTOR pre-orders were 380,000. On July 23 (within a couple days of their "far exceeds" announcement, BF3 pre-orders were 467,000 (not including PC, so it was probably close to 500,000.)
(* Updated the entry above because I'm confused. SWTOR pre-orders started on July 21, 2011 but I don't know when the BF3 pre-orders started. BF3 pre-orders should have been around 500,000 at the time of the July announcement, meaning that SWTOR pre-orders should have been between 0.5 and 1 million.)
With December 20 still a couple months away, those pre-order figures will still continue to rise especially as we get closer to the release date.
Right now, pre-orders should be atleast 1.5 million, but because EA stated that they "far exceed" (but not double) BF3 numbers, pre-orders should be about 2-2.5 million. As we get closer to December, pre-orders should be around 2.5-3 million.
(Hey, by the way.. did you notice that the SWTOR pre-order comes with an exclusive Training Droid? It's a non-vanity COMBAT pet. I guess we know EA's stance on virtual items and sales.. if they do this now, you know they'll do it later.)
I kind of have a hard time believing that number though. It's been such a long time that a MMO has been able to achieve those numbers of players.
I looked at RIFT as a possible comparison, but it just won't work. If you try searching for RIFT Subscription Figures, you'll probably come across the "1.3 million subscribers" post on the official forums.
"In a statement today, Trion Worlds announced their new flagship title Rift: Planes of Telara™ has exceeded all expectations, shifting in excess of 1.3 Million units. Digital sales amounted to a staggering 1 million, whilst physical copies came in at a respectable 300,000. A spokesperson was quoted as saying "Maybe we're closer to Azeroth afterall", poking fun at their own marketting slogan in relation to their success in comparsion to the current top dog World of Warcraft."However, this was just an April's fool joke.. if you couldn't already tell by the multiple spelling errors and poor grammar.
In reality, actual RIFT sales figures are about 400,000.
If you recall, Trion Worlds was bragging a while back about having "One Million Players" but these were just vanity figures invoked from "internal calculations". There's a massive difference between 1,000,000 players and 400,000 games sales (which probably has even less players). There was no outrage about this clear distinction, but WOW fans sure do get upset when you suggest that Blizzard does the same: "What!?? Blizzard would NEVER do that.. it would be ILLEGAL for them to give wrong subscriber numbers. THEY HAVE SHAREHOLDERS TO ANSWER TO DAMMIT! THEY CAN'T JUST MAKE UP SUBS!" Everyone else does it and they have shareholders to answer to.. so, why is Blizzard any different?
And, I can't really compare it to Age of Conan. They anticipated hitting 1M sales, but never reached their target. They also dropped 3/4 of their subscribers after the first month.
There is really no other MMO that can be used as a comparison.
At current trends, there should be at least 3 million subscribers over the first month. This period is crucial too, and they will require excellent online reviews in order for their numbers to continue growing. But, from what I've read online there are a lot of people disappointed by the game and how it's too similar to WOW (which they have stopped playing due to boredom.) Most of the reviews have been very poor, and I know that EA has been trying to control these reviews as much as possible until after the game is officially released.
To that end, here's my prediction:
I think that right out of the gate, SWTOR will sell less than 3 million copies. Most of those figures will be digital / pre-orders. There will be poor reviews post launch, and many players will abandon the game after the first month. It won't be a massive exodus like what AoC experienced, but I'm going to guess at least 30% of the players will quit shortly after their first month (say 2-3 months after launch).
During the first couple weeks, EA/Bioware will be bragging about how great their sales figures are and how "successful" the game still is while trying to keep hype and momentum going. But, gamers will be more interested in the reviews and what their friends think. Normally a publisher would mention what review scores they are receiving and by whom, but in this case they will just pick out "certain quotes" from reviews and post the single quotes instead: "the graphics are phenomenal!", "the story is engaging!", "lag issues weren't that bad..", etc. etc.
(I'm hoping for a review scandal. :) EA threatens to remove advertising revenue due to bad reviews for example. Keep your eyes open on this one.. sudden changes in who reviews the game, reviews are up for a day then deleted, layoffs, angry blog protests, etc.)
During their Q3 2012 Shareholders meeting (during the first week of February), they'll talk about how greatly successful the game was.. and just pretend that their shareholders didn't read any of the reviews.
By mid 2012, subscribers will probably be around 1.5 to 2.0 million at the most. Still, not a bad chunk of probably many WOW (and some RIFT) players.
If I learn anything new, I'll update my estimates before December. But, I think the beta reviews that are slowly leaking out may halt pre-order growth. I might even need to start considering pre-order cancellations if the more disappointing reviews go viral.
* I'm going to have to make some updates, I'll wait to see if EA provides any new information. It's looking more like a RIFT situation though, but maybe with slightly more players in the beginning.
I'm going to cut some of those numbers in half, I just find it really hard to believe that a new MMO is going to have any where close to 2 or even 3 million subscribers. I think first month sales will probably be under 1.5 million (approx. 900,000 pre-orders and maybe 300-400k retail sales). I'm still expecting an exodus of players though once the reviews start to hit - so I'm sticking with the approx. 30% cut. I think most reviews will be "disappointing" but if they are "TERRIBLE" reviews, then that exodus will be much larger. If they can keep delivering major content, I think they can stabilize at around 1 million players and then slowly grow to probably 2 million over the first year.
* UPDATE (12/06/11):
I'm going to revise my numbers again. A lot of the information being peddled out by EA/Bioware is very misleading, which actually concerns me. And based on the active beta players, I don't think it's going to be over 1 million. It's "supposed" to be atleast 1.5 million based on what Bioware is saying.. but I'm going to estimate 900k sales for first day sales (which includes all pre-orders.) Even that seems really high and I have my doubts. If they do hit 1 million during the first day, I'll be very impressed.. then after the first month is when things get really interesting. :)
* UPDATE (12/15/11):
Even though sources are saying that pre-orders are near 950,000, the launch is 2 weeks away, and they still don't include digital orders and retail copies, I'm still going to stick with a low number. :)
You'll probably think I'm crazy.
Based on the most internet sites, it "should" be at the very least 1.5 million on the first day, and if you believe the publisher hype, it should be more than 2.5 million first day sales.
Even with all of that overwhelming information, I'm throwing caution to the wind and I'm still sticking with about 900k sales on the first day. If you want some more flexibility, I'll make a guess at somewhere between 800,000 and 1,000,000. :)
The "staying power" of SWTOR will be the most interesting. After the first month, will subscribers rise or fall?